On July 12, 2021, David “Dave” Duncan Dobbs, full-time philanthropist & part-time curmudgeon, passed away of natural causes in his home. Dave was a long-time resident of South Austin at the time of his death. However, he had only to pronounce the words “bag” and “house” for anyone to guess his Midwestern roots.
Born in Mankato, Minnesota, on March 6, 1939, to Mary Evelyn Hotaling Dobbs and Willis Clark Dobbs, Dave was the third in line of four brothers. His father edited the Blue Earth County Enterprise in Mapleton, Minnesota, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever read an email composed by Dave. Dave’s correspondences were so meticulously researched that even a grocery list read like an IKEA instruction manual, and so beautifully written that even responses to movie suggestions read like reviews that would shame Siskel & Ebert.
From a young age, Dave appreciated classical music. In fact, rumor has it that he composed his own expletive-filled arias upon occasion. He owed his passion for the genre a debt of gratitude since it also brought another love to his life - Patricia “Pat” Jean Wesley Dobbs. While at a soda shop in Owatonna, he heard her discussing the “Grand Ole’ Oprey” with a friend. Thinking she said “opera”, he invited himself into the discussion, raving about “The Marriage of Figaro”. Luckily for him, Pat encouraged the endearing and handsome nerd who stopped at her table, despite the misunderstanding. Soon, she, too, loved opera...and Dave. On January 26, 1958, Dave and Pat married, remaining inseparable until March 19, 1999, when Pat died of breast cancer.
While anyone who knew Dave may be shocked to learn that he would take orders from anyone, Dave actually served in the US Navy, earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander prior to his honorable discharge. Perhaps this is when he began his lifetime obsession with all things travel-related, as the Navy shuffled him from one mode of transportation to another. He began training as a pilot, but learned quickly that he was better at spewing hot air than flying through it. As the years progressed, he served on various ships and submarines, working intelligence communications during Vietnam. While in the service, he, along with his family, was stationed in Dunoon in Southern Scotland, the land of his ancestors and the origin of his stubborn roots. As he transitioned to new posts, the family lived in various places, spending time in Pensacola, Florida, Port Hueneme, California, and finally, Las Vegas, Nevada.
When Dave moved to Austin, he pursued a teaching career in secondary education, then worked as an auto mechanic, specializing in SAABs. However, he is most known for his work in community planning.
If you’ve ever ridden Austin Capital Metro, you have interacted with Dave’s greatest legacy. He was instrumental in creating the current rail transit line and promoting its benefits to the public. Additionally, he designed the route for the upcoming Orange Line that will parallel I-35. As an expert in the field, Dave traveled around the world attending transportation conferences, studying mass transit systems, offering solutions for congested traffic areas, and advocating for government support of transit infrastructure. As far as Dave was concerned, all roads led back to mass transit (pun intended). In fact, as a conversationalist, he held the world’s record for fastest pivot from any subject to the topic of light rail - no matter how desperately some of us tried to avoid it!
A walking encyclopedia, Dave had a plethora of information at his fingertips. Whether it be a dirty limerick or an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, Dave could recite verses from memory. Intimately familiar with history, he could (and would) provide twenty-minute diatribes about the little-known mistakes of generals in obscure battles. Born before his time, Dave had such an open view about human reproduction that cries of “TMD” (Too much Dave) would often abound. Furthermore, he had an innate mechanical genius, as evidenced by his famous penny washers and credit card key replicas. To be sure, anything that Dave built would still be left standing after a nuclear holocaust - such was the care and expertise he put into any project.
But Dave didn’t just exercise his mind; he also enjoyed bicycling. Far into his seventies, he was in better shape than most of his children, riding his 7200 Multitrack Trek hybrid everywhere he went, often more than twenty miles a day. Atop his steel-framed steed, he was easily recognizable even from afar, in a bright yellow jacket adorned with flashy glow-in-the dark reflective tape, matching bicycle bag, and orange knit toque hat atop his head - also handy for pulling over his eyes when he wanted to sleep in public. Function over fashion, as Dave was wont to say.
In the past few years, Dave had slowed down tremendously, but he still enjoyed perusing YouTube, recycling items that never quite made it to the bin, and curating his collection of re-used paper towels & napkins. On the weekends, he enjoyed spending time with his “girls”, who plied him with food, spoiled him rotten, and lectured him about the need to take care of himself.
Now that Dave has moved onto his final destination, he is remembered by his brother Bill Dobbs, his son Kevin Dobbs, his daughters - biological - Wendy Rose and Kyleen “Kyle” Dobbs - and adopted - Patricia “Trish” Ansley, and Meagan & Barbara King, his grandchildren, Michelle Cherney; Tiffany Rolan; Eric Hardison; Katie Metzner; and her husband Stephan Metzner; his great-grandchildren, Miracle Tapia; Quinn & Dylan King; and Ryleigh Metzner; an abundance of well-loved nieces and nephews & their offspring, and his dearest friends, Ruth Travers; Lyndon Henry; Will Bozeman; and Roger Baker.
We are comforted in the knowledge that Dave’s wife Pat, his daughter Kelly, his brothers Herb and Clark, his sisters-in-law Joyce & Nell, his nephews Doug & Herb, Jr., and his niece Mary were there to meet him at the metro station of the afterlife, where they surely complained heartily about his being late (as per usual), then loaded his spiritual suitcase onto the roof racks of a vintage SAAB and escorted him to a heavenly Pavarotti concert being held in his honor.
On July 31, 2021 at 2pm, we will honor his life at the Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home & Memorial Park located at 6300 W William Cannon Drive in Austin, Texas, with Charlie Gagen officiating. All are welcome to attend.
A private family interment will take place at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please honor Dave’s philanthropic spirit by making donations in his memory to one of his favorite causes, listed below:
Mobile Loaves & Fishes
American Civil Liberties Union
Texas Civil Rights Project
Texas Central Food Bank6500 Metropolis Drive., Austin, TX 78744
Mobile Loaves and Fishes9301 Hog Eye Road, Suite 950, Austin, TX 78724